Hawks defeat Trojans for third straight victory
By Curt Herron
One week ago, Bartlett had no victories and possessed an eight-match losing streak. What a difference a week can make.
Suddenly the Hawks are riding high with three straight wins, including two in conference play.
Granted, Bartlett was playing better than most winless squads and had faced a tough schedule thus far.
Still, it's easy for teams to lose confidence as the losses mount, but the Hawks didn't let that happen.
Bartlett capped its successful week on Saturday with a 4-2 nonconference win over Downers Grove North at Millennium Field.
On Tuesday, the Hawks got their first win, a 1-0 triumph over West Chicago, and then added a 2-1 win over Waubonsie Valley two days later.
As a result of those first two wins, the Hawks (3-8-1, 2-2) are still in the hunt in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division race.
They hope to continue their winning ways on Tuesday when they meet up with Metea Valley in a key UEC Valley match in Streamwood.
"We learned about a lot of our faults in our first few games," Hawks coach Ben Beary said. "I know that we were playing good competition but we still weren't playing at our best. We don't feel like we're a team that should be on the wrong end of a 5-1 result, and we had a few of those.
"That taught us a lot about ourselves and put some egos in check. We had some growing up and maturing to do. And you can tell in this little run that we're having that it's starting to pay dividends. You like getting tough competition early because it gives you a lot of time to adjust.
"We kept preaching to the guys, that this is a necessary process to go through some adversity if you want to become the best that you can be. Teams can respond one or two ways. They can either give up or they can make changes and that's what this group has done."
A lot of different Hawks figured into the scoreline against the Trojans in what was their most-productive outing to date.
The win over Waubonsie marked the first time this year that Bartlett had scored twice in a match, so a four goals was well-received.
A.J. Santori collected two goals against the Trojans (2-9-3) while Justin Busch chipped in with a pair of assists.
Tony Estanislao and Andrew Gott also connected while Adam Jones and Igor Zwada contributed the other assists for the winners.
The Hawks coach believes that his squad has hung tough due to the leadership of his seniors and three captains
"I couldn't be more proud of these guys for not giving up on the team and not just improving, but over this stretch that we've had, they've improved a little bit in every game, even though that was a little difficult to tell today with us going into the wind in the second half," Beary said.
"I think that the biggest catalysts to the improvements that we've made in the last few games is the leadership that I'm getting from my seniors and the captains, Mike Parzy, Justin Busch and Joey Butler. Everybody feeds off of them.
"We have a lot of talent in the sophomore and junior classes, but they lack the experience and the maturity. So for Justin, Joey and Mike to step in and show that hard work makes up for mistakes on the field. It's a character trait that they have and it's something the younger guys are learning."
The Hawks struck on one of their first chances on Saturday when a Busch throw-in led to Santori connecting in the eighth minute.
But the Trojans, who brought an 0-5-1 streak into the match, quickly responded by getting a score of their own.
Goal scoring has been a problem for North, which had collected only three during its previous half dozen outings.
But in the 15th minute, Ethan Akkawi sent a pass to Miles Larson, who got free and put a shot into an open net to even things.
North just missed taking a 2-1 lead right after its score when Mike Molloy got free but Andrew Nowak came out for the stop.
"We're getting there but it's just a case of consistency," Trojans coach Brian Gervase said. "We were very aggressive today and we had the defense turned around a lot today, which is goal. Now we just have to be on the receiving end of more of those passes and stay onsides.
"We're a good possession team and we had the run of play for most of the second half. We can control the ball and win 50-50 balls, so we're doing all of the little things right. Now we just have to execute the main frame of this game, which is getting good attempts on goal.
"We've got a very young team that works hard but we're still learning. The two goals that we scored are the type that we're trying generate. One's off a guy's face that falls to his feet and he scores and the other is an own goal. They've been the kind of goals that have been scored against us."
Things don't get any easier for the Trojans, who play at Lyons Township, Downers Grove South and Morton this week.
Just before the midpoint of the half, Busch fired off a liner but Trojans keeper Ray Greco dove to deny the scoring try.
But the Hawks were able to strike in the 23rd minute when Jones sent a free kick to Estanislao, who got free and connected.
A little while later, Zwada sent one attempt a bit wide and then directed a header which went over the top of the net.
The Trojans' hopes were shaken about half an hour in when Molloy went down, suffering an apparent shoulder injury.
Molloy, who has been hurt for much of the season due to injury, left at halftime along with the Streamwood paramedics.
Shortly before the break, a Hawk defender headed away a long free kick from Brett Pyburn and Greco halted another effort.
"It's definitely fun to finally get some wins under our belts but the main thing that we're still focused on is improving, since that's been our goal since the beginning of the season," Hawks senior Steven Kobylinski said. "I'm really proud of how our team has come together and improved.
"This is fun but there's still more work to be done and we're looking to get some more wins. This week has definitely been a push for us to get more wins and getting the wins has pushed us to want to keep it going. After all of this, we don't see ourselves slowing down any time soon.
"It's really been just a case of our team coming together and working more as a team. It's also about us caring more about the team than about individual talent. Everything that each hard-working player on this team has been doing has just been for the benefit of the team."
North got the wind advantage in the final 40 minutes and got the first salvo when Pyburn's free kick was deflected away.
Right after that, the Hawks had two good chances when Mike Parzy got free but he was denied and then on a subsequent try.
Just after the midway mark of the final half, Kobylinski sent in a free kick but Pyburn was able to head away the effort.
A few minutes later, North's Matt Metzler had a shot cleared by Zane Kaiser and then Jake Stevenson sent an attempt wide.
Bartlett made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute when a Busch throw-in went into the box to Gott, who then headed the ball in.
After Stevenson had a free kick liner deflected away by Nowak, Estanislao saw his hopes of connecting again thwarted.
The hosts made it 4-1 in the 78th minute when Zwada found an open Santori, who put in a short shot for his second goal.
North kept battling to the end and it paid off as Stevenson's long shot went in off of a defender in the final minute.
"The first part of the season was disappointing but a couple of games before our streak ended, our intensity started building and it's just continued on and on," Kaiser said. "We needed to get a few wins in order to do something that coach Beary has told us, which is to make a habit out of winning.
"We had a major change in our lineup and moved a couple of people around and it really helped us. We've been feeling pretty good lately and it's a lot nicer after getting a couple of wins under our belts. Going into all of the tough games that we have left, we just need to keep up the same attitude."